You might have sometimes wondered is Android still open Source? After all, some users use Android because it’s a Linux based OS. Linux based operating systems generally are open source. And an open-source system has a lot of perks when compared to their close source counterparts. One of them is complete control over shared data means having privacy.
Privacy is also the main reason for a lot of users for using Linux distros. And as Android in its core is Linux this should also be the case with Android. But although it is an open-source operating system, the problem starts with what phone manufacturers, phone Carriers, and Google have done to the operating system.
Each manufacturer, carrier, and even Google loads close source software into it. Any Android phone you pick today comes loaded with some code and a bunch of apps that are the close source. The problems start as all the phones are also locked means you can’t remove these apps even if you want to (or it voids your phone’s warranty).
This is also the reason why many people don’t think it is open source. As a result, people who value privacy and love open source are opting for Linux on smartphone hardware. But still, it’s far away from the mainstream, and the support of these Linux distros is also limited to a few devices only.
But still Android is open source and, close source apps and codes are added afterward. Then is it possible to use it without all of these?
Yes, as technically Android is open-source its possible.
There is a core Android platform, known as the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). This allows users to use Android without little to no source software and do as he/she wishes. Although AOSP does require some customization and other code to support any device.
This is also the reason devices using Android are increasing day by day. As manufacturers don’t have to pay anyone to use Android in their products. All they need to do is to load Android with suitable code to support their product.
So One can use AOSP for open-source OS?
Yes for advanced users ASOP can be a method to use Android as an open-source OS. Or one can also download ported AOSP or Vanilla ROM if they wish to. These ROMS are based on AOSP code and are customized to run on a specific device. Most of these ROMs also don’t come pre-installed with Google apps and services which are closed source.
But unlike other Linux distributions, most apps developed for it are not open source. Instead, almost every app developed for Android is a close source. So even if you wished to use it as an open-source OS you will be stuck with a very limited number of apps. Most of the apps present on Playstore are close sourced even if they are free.
This is not the case with other Linux distributions like Ubuntu Touch and Plasma Mobile. This is also the reason which makes Android feel like a close source operating system.
Yes, Android is open source and can also be used as an operating system without closed source apps. But you will be stuck as it will still require some codes and customization to support your phone. And after all this, you will have a very limited number of open source apps.
So if you want to use it as an open-source OS you have two options either install closed source apps and lose the freedom of open source or just use it with a limited number of apps.